Richie Havens

Richie HavensOctober 5, 1995

Have there been places in your life where you may have never seen the light of day? It’s almost like a déjà vu. You stand someplace and swear you have been there before. In New York,  the meat-packing district consist of an array of two-story buildings. This is where the freaks come out at night. There’s nothing you can do around here that would raise an eyebrow.

When I thought of this area, the restaurant Florent came to mind along with all the nights I had spend rushing there for food to absorb the alcohol in my system. Across the street, the address of the building I was going to create an image of Richie Havens.

Richie Havens is gifted with one of the most recognizable voices in popular music. His fiery, poignant, always soulful singing style has remained unique and ageless since he first emerged from the Greenwich Village folk scene in the early 1960’s. It’s a voice that has inspired and electrified audiences from the Woodstock Music & Arts Fair in 1969, to the Clinton Presidential Inauguration in 1993.

When I stepped in front of the door,  I knew this was going to be one of those places that once you stepped inside you would wonder how a place like this could be in this neighborhood.

A motherly woman shows us to a large room filled with instruments. First I acted like it was not there and then I stepped in front of a mirror that was as tall as I. This was by far the largest mirror I had worked with. No matter what the size-lighting always matters.

I stepped in front of the drum set and my eyes are captivated by a velvet image of Jimi Hendrix. In my mind, I hear Richie song “Freedom”, a song now considered to be the anthem of a generation.

The cold air blows against my backside. I turn to see well not quite the Woodstock hippy I thought Mr. Havens would be, but… well minus the ornate rings on his fingers, he would look like a Wall Street type.

Mr. Havens apologized for being thirty minutes late. When you are allowed into a space and given free will, it’s cool just feeling the environment. There is rarely a need to touch; just being in the presence of greatness motivates me to improve myself.

For over three decades, Richie has used his music to convey messages of brotherhood and personal freedom. As he looked at the portfolio he said, “I see this is something you are passionate about. I sing songs that move me. I’m in the communications business. This communicates love for those that have come before you”.

As I listen to him, I think of the people Richie has worked with, Louis Gossett Jr., Bob Dylan, Dalai Lama, Peter Gabriel, did I say Wood stock? Laugh out loud!! …and many others.

Mr. Havens asked me, “Do you know where you will photograph me?” I pointed to an X made of black gaffers tape on the floor.  He picked up a guitar and stood in position. He has been in great demand in colleges across the country, as well as on the international folk and pop festival circuit.

“My music is meant to be a chronological view of the times we’ve come through, what we’ve thought about, and what we’ve done to grow and change. There’s a universal point to which we all respond, and where all songs apply to everyone.”

I fired off the flash.